December 06, 2007

'Made in Southern Illinois Showcase' earns honor

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — The "Made in Southern Illinois Showcase" at the 2007 Du Quoin State Fair is an award-winner for the Illinois Small Business Development Center.

Robyn Laur Russell, director of the center at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, accepted the Program Excellence Award earlier this month at the 2007 Illinois Entrepreneurship and Small Business Growth Association (IESBGA) Fall Conference in Peoria.

The showcase debuted at the 2007 fair courtesy of the SIUC Illinois Small Business Development Center, commonly known by its acronym ISBDC. Co-sponsors were other University programs within the Illinois Entrepreneurship Network. They included the Southern Illinois Entrepreneurship Center, the University Entrepreneurship Center at Centralia, the Illinois Manufacturing Extension Center, the Southern Illinois Research Park and Incubator Program and Connect SI.

The showcase featured nine homegrown, Southern Illinois businesses displaying their goods and services during a 10-day trade-show style event. In addition, various technical assistance providers from the sponsoring Illinois Entrepreneurship programs were on hand. The showcase enabled center clients to gain exposure to more than 300,000 fair visitors.

Laur Russell said the inaugural showcase "was an exciting opportunity for businesses to reach thousands of people and show them the talent, creativity and opportunities created by Southern Illinois companies. The business that exhibited greatly varied in their product and service offerings, from a full-service marketing company to a wooden baseball bat manufacturer, from a hunting camouflage producer to a digital imaging cookie factory."

"All showcased products and services were made by the hearts and hands of Southern Illinoisans," Laur Russell added. "Company owners and representatives enjoyed interacting with the public, informing them about their products and services, and creating a regional 'buzz' about business opportunities in the southern portion of Illinois. The showcase resulted in more than just exposure, with one company working a deal with a business in Missouri to start distributing their product line."

"The showcase was a great opportunity to expose the public to the diverse businesses created in Southern Illinois," said Larry Woolard, manager for the southern region of Opportunity Returns, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity program established to create and retain jobs.

The IESBGA Program Excellence Award recognizes outstanding innovation and practices within the programs and services offered by member centers and in particular, specific programs developed to meet a specific need. Recognition also came from Chuck Hartke, director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture, which hosts the Du Quoin State Fair, for highlighting businesses in the agribusiness industries.

"I applaud the efforts of SIU to promote agriculture-based businesses," said Hartke, who visited the booths and talked with clients during the fair showcase. "It is clear there are more and more opportunities for this type of business both regionally and globally."

The inaugural Made in Southern Illinois Showcase featured a diverse group of businesses with myriad products and services. Showcased businesses included:

• Arthur Agency of Carbondale – a full-service marketing agency utilizing traditional and cutting-edge advertising and marketing media to provide clients comprehensive marketing strategies.

• Twisted Stick, Inc. of Allendale – design and sales of specialized camouflage clothing created in a morel mushroom pattern and with a full line of all-season reversible attire.

• Heartland Women of West Frankfort – a newspaper focusing on issues women care most about, created by an experienced mother-daughter journalism team with free distribution twice monthly throughout the region.

• Redneck Apparel of Herrin – featuring designs by Don Falknor celebrating the redneck culture and way of life with clothing and other accessories.

• Rolling Stone Engraving of Johnston City – offering more than 600,000 graphics they create with high-quality engraving on a variety of natural stone products including memorials, gifts, signs, yard décor and more. Based in Johnston City, there's a sales location in Marion.

• Heartland Bakery of Du Quoin – recently reopened under new ownership by bakery veterans, the company manufactures kosher, certified organic cookies and other baked goods for in-store bakeries, private label operations and food service companies.

• Presswood Dry Meat Rub of Du Quoin – selling an original dry meat rub developed by company namesake to add flavor while sealing in natural juices of all types of grilled or broiled meat.

• Uncorked Tours of Carbondale – featuring eight-hour guided tours of the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail complete with vineyard tours, wine tastings, discounts, trivia, prizes, souvenirs and more.

• Dinger Bats of Ridgeway – owned by former baseball players with a mission of providing quality craftsmanship and performance of a maple bat for players at all levels as well as a complete line of baseball products.

The Illinois Small Business Development Center and its Illinois Entrepreneurship Center partners are already planning for the 2008 Made in Southern Illinois Showcase as they anticipate it will be an annual event. In fact, plans call for an even bigger showcase next year with additional showcase space featuring even more clients. They also expect to utilize different venues throughout the state.

For more information about the Illinois Small Business Development Center, call 618/536-2424 or look online at